1862: Murphy Lewis to John Lewis

How Murphy Lewis might have looked

How Murphy Lewis might have looked

This letter was written by 32 year-old Corporal Murphy Lewis (1829-Aft1895) of Co. H, 63rd Indiana Infantry. Lewis mustered into the service at Covington in August 1862 and mustered out in June 1865 as a sergeant. He was born in Orange County, North Carolina, the son of John and Cynthia Ann (Baldwin) Lewis. He stood 5 feet 9½ inches tall and was a resident of Indiana for six years before his marriage in 1853 to Maria Myers (1836-1886).

The 63rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment formally came into existence on December 31, 1861, when recruiting camps were established at Covington (Fountain County) and Haubstadt (Gibson County). The regiment recruited the first few months of 1862 until a War Department order halted all recruiting of volunteers. The partial companies were consolidated into four full companies which were sent to Lafayette to guard prisoners captured at Forts Henry and Donelson. After about a month the “battalion” was sent to Indianapolis to act as provost guards. They guarded prisoners at Camp Morton and kept order in the city.

In the summer of 1862 the battalion was sent to Alexandria, Virginia and served as part of Washington’s defense force. In August they were assigned to Piatt’s brigade and were involved in the last day of the battle of Second Manassas. The battalion suffered about a dozen casualties and was part of the great “skedaddle” from the field at the end of the day. A few weeks later the battalion was sent back to Indiana to finish recruiting up to regiment strength.

While the first four companies were away in Virginia, James McMannomy and others had continued to recruit for the regiment in Indiana. By September 1862 the regiment was near full strength. About 40- 50% of the regiment came from Fountain County. Other counties contributing sizable contingents included Gibson, White, Hamilton, Marion, and Tippecanoe. John S. Williams was promoted to Colonel, James McMannomy was made Lieutenant Colonel, and Israel Newton Stiles of Lafayette was made Major. Stiles had previously served in the Peninsula Campaign with the 20th Indiana.

In December, 1862, the regiment was split into two battalions. Six companies under Lt. Col. McMannomy were sent to guard the railroads south of Louisville, Kentucky. They would remain there until early 1864. Other than minor encounters with guerrillas (one group stole the Chaplain’s horse), their sole combat was a brush with Morgan’s Raid in the summer of that year. Some members of the 63rd fought a brief skirmish with Morgan’s Raiders south of Sheperdsville, claiming to have killed three of Morgan’s men. Morgan then turned west to cross into Indiana. During this period McMannomy was promoted to Colonel upon the resignation of Williams. McMannomy would himself resign in January, 1864, for health reasons.

The other four companies served as provost guards in Indianapolis. They ran the Soldier’s Home and sometimes provided guards for Camp Morton. They also acted as the Governor’s enforcers, and some companies were involved in the so-called “Battle of Pogue’s Run” during the Democratic Convention in May of 1863. Contingents of the 63rd also went out to places like Lafayette to arrest people labeled as subversive by the Morton administration.

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp Sullivan [Military Park in Indianapolis]
November 19th 1862

Respected brother,

I take the present moment to write you a few lines in which I can inform you that I am well, and hope those lines may find you and family enjoying the same blessing of life.

This is quite a rainy day here which makes it disagreeable in camp. We are still in Indianapolis but we expect marching orders soon. The boys are getting impatient. They want to go to Dixie. We have had heavy duty to perform here doing provost duty and camp duty also. The drafted men are all out of our camp and we are glad of it.

I have but little war news, but from present indications, there will be a general movement of the army in all sections before long. I want the armies to move on soon for we don’t want to always be trying to put down this rebellion. I think we men enough to flax the rebels, and if the commanders will let the men fight, it will be done.

The 69th Regiment came in this morning. All the paroled prisoners are exchanged. ¹ They will be ready for the field in a few days. Soldiering is a pretty hard business but we don’t grumble.

I have my health very well — much better than I expected. I feared at first I could not stand soldiering. I don’t know how it will be when it comes to marching. I fear nothing but winter.

We expect to make an expedition down the Mississippi when we leave here. We had here last Saturday three hundred rebel guerrillas which have been sent away. General [Solomon] Meredith was here last week. He is a fine-looking man.

We have several of Fountain County visitors to see us which we are glad to see. Sir, you have never written a letter to me yet and i think it is time you were commencing. You certainly have better chances to write than I have.

Jacob Berclaw's grave in Indianapolis

Jacob Bercaw’s grave in Indianapolis

I presume Mr. Stull give you all the news when he was at home. The boys are generally well. One man of our company died this morning. He had fever. His name was Jacob Bercaw. This is the first death which has occurred in our company.

I will now bring my short letter to a close by saying I hope you all will not forget a soldier who has sacrificed home — friend — and life for his country. Write soon all of you. I still remain your brother and friend, — Corporal M. Lewis

To John I. Lewis

¹ The 69th Indiana Infantry, in their first engagement, were captured in the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky on 30 August 1862. They were paroled and sent to Indianapolis where they were reorganized in November 1862.

 

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